An Independent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
Manerplaw, April 21, 1992
The following statement regarding forced labour and rape in Kyauk Kyi Township was given to the Karen National Union by Naw Htoo Paw (not her real name) on March 31, 1992, after fleeing her village to the Karen Liberated Area.
Name: Naw Htoo Paw Sex: F Age: 33
Nationality: Karen Religion: Christian
Address: Wet La Daw village, Kyauk Kyi Township
Family: Widow with 3 children, mother surviving, father dead.
The SLORC troops from 60 Regiment often force us to work for them. Everyone in our village has to go to a meeting every Sunday night when one of their officers tells us what we have to do. Recently they told us they wanted to build a new camp called Paw Daw Moo and that we would have to build it for them. There are 100 houses in Wet La Daw village. Each house, without exception, had to send at least 1 person to work for 3 days without pay, and we had to take all our food. They always made us work from down to dusk, and we could only cook and eat very early in the morning and after dark at night. They made us sleep on the ground in the camp, but the mosquitoes usually kept us awake. We could only go to the latrine once in the early morning or once after work in the evening, and we had to urinate where we slept.
Then after 3 days of this they said we couldn’t go home, and we’d have to stay for a week. When we protested that we had no more food or clean clothes, a village elder was sent back to the village to get these things from our homes, but we weren’t allowed to go. This was typical; the time before, when they made us build Yan Gyi Aung camp for them, they said we had to go for one day and would return in the evening, and then held us for 3 days. The SLORC troops always abuse and lie to us like this.
After a week of suffering through this, worrying about our children at home and being away from our families, a village elder pleaded with them to let us go home and to only have to work 3 days at a time in the future. Fortunately they agreed to this, and we were divided into 2 groups to rotate doing 3-day shifts of hard labour.
Shortly after this system began, Paw Daw Moo camp closed for a few days while soldiers went to reinforce the troops at Yan Gyi Aung camp in some fighting with the Karen army. When they came back, they called a meeting and told all the villagers to cooperate with them and that they would give us some food if we worked with the army. But we still had to bring all our food with us every time; they only gave us some beans and a few other things.
Sergeant Ba Kyi, who gave us our orders, made a big thing of this though. He told us "I give you so much I can hardly eat myself". He liked to call himself "Saw" Ba Kyi and tell us he’s Karen.
One night, I remember it was February 12, Ba Kyi came back from a trip to headquarters and called a meeting. He was drunk. He told us he’d got a letter that his mother was dying, but that his superiors wanted him to come back to the camp so he did. He said he wanted to question us one by one, "and you’d better not answer ‘I don’t know’ or you’ll meet my knife!" Then he pointed two big knives at us, and said one was for the men and one for the women.
When we left the meeting we were split into small groups and kept under guard on the ground. But none of us could sleep because Ba Kyi went up the hill to the top of the camp and ordered the soldiers to fire their guns and mortars all over the place for no reason. There were all kinds of explosions and we were terrified, which must have been why he did it. Along with the other Christians there, I just prayed and tried to sleep.
Bo Kyi started calling villagers to his quarters one by one and questioning them, but we never got to see them afterwards to find out what happened. Eventually I was woken up and was the first of the 5 women there taken to see him. After I was left alone with him, he told me to tell him about Wet La Daw village, especially about the smugglers coming to buy cattle and buffaloes and any villagers who were helping the rebels. I didn’t want to tell him anything, and he started yelling at me and threatening me with his knife. He demanded to know about Karen soldiers and Saw Lah Oo, their commander. I told him I’m too busy struggling to survive and feed my children to think about such things. He said he wanted to know what the villagers said about him. He told me he’d already tied up 2 villagers and killed them, and started firing continuous questions at me, especially about Saw Lah Oo. I didn’t even have time to try to answer.
Then he pushed me into a small room behind a wall and tied one of my hands with wire so I couldn’t move. He ordered me to sit quietly while he interviewed the others. Then he went and just pretended to call the next person in, but immediately came back to me and started asking more questions. I said "Don’t ask me, ask the men", and he accused me of working for the rebels.
Then he waved his knife at me again, grabbed my free hand and clutched at my breasts. I shouted "Son, let me free!" But he told me since he was 24 and I was only 33, I must call him Brother, and started asking for sex. When I refused he said "Then I’ll send you up to the top of the camp – there many of my men will rape you and kill you, and we’ll say the Karen rebels did it! If that frightens you, you’d better give in to me!" I told him " Son, don’t do this – you’re single, if you need a woman you can marry someone much prettier than me. I’m a Christian widow, I have 3 children to support and I have to work here. I have too much trouble already".
He just kept threatening that he’d give me to his men who’d rape me to death, waving his knife and demanding sex. I kept fighting but he tied up my other hand, and then he pushed me down and raped me. I warned him I must tell the Church but he ordered me not to.
When he was finished he asked me "Are you satisfied?" All I could tell him was that my life was now nothing but darkness. He just said "If you’re so troubled and ashamed, go hang yourself".
He raped me 3 times that night. I was tied so tight my elbows were dislocated while he raped me, and they still hurt even now. Then he told me that when I went the next day I would have to go and spy on 2 huts near the village but the Karen soldiers use and report back to him by letter, especially anything about Saw Lah Oo. I agreed just so he’d let me go. At 4 a.m. they woke up the other villagers and let me go with them but warned me not to tell them anything except that I’d been tied up under a tree overnight.
But back in the village, I felt I had to tell them and tell the Church. When I did this I learned that Ba Kyi had treated many women the same way before. But now that I’d told them I couldn’t stay there safely any more, and I had to flee my home and bring my children here.